GISH gives every freshman opportunity to experience college

GISH students take selfies at Memorial Stadium during a campus visit on Dec. 20, 2018 (NTV News)

Grand Island Senior High achieves an ambitious goal, as the largest high school in central Nebraska gives every student the opportunity to step on a college campus at the start of their freshman year

That includes students like Nayeli Perez, who would like to study aviation or engineering, but has never been to a college campus.

“No I haven’t. I’ve never been to a college,” she said.

That may be true of most of GISH students, many of whom would be first generation college students.

Azael Zumaya said, “I wish to be the first one to go to an actual college. My brothers went to community college. I want to be more than that and go to a state university and get a better job.”

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus is just 90 minutes away, but the destination may seem insurmountable for some kids.

“Many of our kids have never left Grand Island, let alone know what college life is like,” said GISH counselor Corey Farlee.

So when Grand Island Senior High launched its Freshman Academy, they had an idea.

“Every student should have that experience of putting their feet on a college campus,” said Maggie Mintken, freshman principal.

“We said why not, let’s give it a shot and here they are and it’s been an amazing experience,” said UNL Admissions Director Abby Freeman.

Kids snapped selfies at Memorial Stadium, and for some it may be a life changing moment.

Counselor Shaun Willey said, “I see it some of the eyes of the students, that never have pictured themselves on a college campus.”

UNL’s Freeman said, “We hope when the students leave they say I can see myself going to college, I can see myself at Nebraska and I have more tools to get there and how to graduate from college, because our goal is to recruit graduates of this institution.”

As high school teachers prepare kids for college and career, they hope the experience gets kids thinking.

Farlee said, “A lot of times kids have a hard time finding their purpose.”

“To make that connection, that there’s something you’re working towards,” said Willey, a GISH counselor.

Farlee added, “I feel like after today they may be able to look past the next 15 minutes and look into the future a little more.”

They hope the trip encourages kids to prepare academically and financially, seeing where they could be four years from now.

“Today is a game changer for many, many of our students,” Principal Maggie Mintken said.

It’s an aspiration day, as students like Azael Zumaya dream.

“I can reach my goals later on in life,” he said.

After traveling campus, time came to load up the buses and get back to Grand Island, but they hope many of these kids are back on this or another college campus four years from now, and say an education at GISH can get them there.

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